Josh King’s play, as the title suggests, is unashamedly metafictional, exploring the artist’s relationship with his art and how that is reflected in his relationship with the real world. A Writer’s Lot specifically focuses on morbidity: on why we are attracted to violence, death and destruction. However, despite this promising set up, the play did not have a particularly sophisticated approach to metafiction. The connection between art and life is presented on the simplest level; the writer exposits on death a lot because he wants to kill people. This is not a particularly interesting statement to make and needless to say it is for the most part untrue. Art is not mere wish fulfilment.
Aside from what it seems to say, the execution of the play was actually very good. We begin with a fantastic opening tableau of a bloodied female corpse, all postured and prone and a man with a gun in his hand standing on the brink of his own sanity. This then segues wonderfully into a brilliant parody of the thespian attitude, as they begin to insist how the script should actually go. Alice Evans is particularly excellent here - arrogant, funny and incredibly watchable.
The other stand out performance was Felix Clutson’s psychologist who is both brilliant and weird with his assertive insinuations about mothers and his habit for unexpected shouting. There was giggling with nearly everything he said.
However, the lead performance of Kristian Wightwick’s William is simply too monotonous. Fair enough the script afforded no insight into why William has this morbid tendency within him and thus he could only ever feel partly fleshed out but he consistently lacked the colour of his fellow performers. It was as if he thought the fact that William is a playwright was enough to make him interesting, nothing else was needed.
The play has some lovely little touches. The doubling of the actors from the first scene as the butlers in the second which prompted William’s commenting upon how this was impossible is an exquisitely economic way of depicting how the writer’s imagination is warping his perception of reality. Another subtle detail was William’s fastidious moving of his actress’s head when she is supposedly dead. The obsessive quality, the need to present the perfect death, was quite chilling.
A good play with plenty of fine moments, but one that left me wanting more from its intriguing concept than was ultimately offered.